February 28, 2023 | Features
This is an amazing wedding image. We’d love to hear about your challenges and what went through your head the moment you were shooting it.
I shot this image using an old Hasselblad 500cm from the late 1950’s/early 60’s with a Zeiss 80mm 2.8 lens. The Hasselblad is a medium format film camera and I had it loaded with a roll of Ilford 400 black and white (12 frames per roll).
This image is of Dave and Rebecca on the road towards Powerscourt House. Dave is, in his own right, an incredibly talented photographer and when I first met them to discuss the wedding, Dave explained that his only brief was for me to “do whatever I wanted”. He told me that in his experience, his own best work came from being given complete creative freedom.
This terrified me but I had been using the Hasselblad during the Covid downtime and I thought that if I could fire through a few rolls of medium format that I might be able to make something a bit special that they might appreciate but with the added benefit that if I ended up producing nothing from it, at least I could blame the 70-year-old camera!
I had planned on getting through two rolls of black and white in the morning and ceremony and then switching over to colour from some couple portraits before we lost light. However, I really struggled to use the camera within the pressure of a wedding day. A combination of the 80mm lens (I tend to shoot a lot wider for weddings) the clunkiness of the camera, it’s awful manual focusing system and light restrictions from only having 400iso film coupled with a 2.8 lens meant that it was very much interfering with my usual “flow” and I was getting really frustrated with it. I also lacked confidence that what I was shooting was going to be useable. After shooting a few frames in the morning and a few during the ceremony, I decided to ditch the camera and just focus on my digital images.
After the ceremony, Dave and Rebecca had a horse drawn carriage bring them on the short journey to Powerscourt. It wasn’t raining but we could see that it wasn’t far off so we (my wife Annie was second shooting with me) made the call to stop on the way to get a quick portrait with the Sugar Loaf as the backdrop.
The pre-rain wind had really picked up and was causing problems with Rebecca’s hair and dress and to get the right composition, we had to shoot from the middle of the road so there was a queue of cars, making the whole scenario really stressful but because Annie was shooting the scene with a 24mm and a 50mm on Sony A9s (ie getting the safe shots) I decided to finish off the two frames left on the roll in the Hasselblad and because I knew Annie’s digital images would be pin sharp, I decided to slow the shutter right down and try to create something a bit more abstract/dreamy and different. It turned out that the first version of this shot had Annie’s arm in it so I didn’t deliver it.
How did you feel right after taking this image? Did you know instantly it was an “award-winning image”?
Absolutely not, I had less than no idea if the two frames I took were going to be blurred beyond distinction or even if they were correctly exposed. To be honest, I was way too stressed with the whole setup to even think too much about what was on the camera and I was just happy to put it away and focus on digital for the rest of the wedding.
Would you be able to share some technical information and a bit about post-processing this image?
When I got the scans back from the lab, I scrolled through them and was really disappointed. Of the 12 shots only 5 or 6 were useable. The rest were soft and even the keepers were relatively bland. I wasn’t ready to view the award winner objectively. Looking at it for the first time so soon after the wedding I just felt myself back in the scene, right back in the panic and stress of trying to make something ‘special’ in those conditions, using that camera and lens set up.
When I came back to the images a few weeks later, I went straight to this image and felt quite different about it. I did some very light post-processing. I straightened it and did a bit of burning to bring out a bit more drama in the sky and did a complete U-turn on it, now I loved it. I sent it straight to the couple as the only “sneak peek” from the wedding and they adored it which prompted me to submit it to the IPPVA for awards consideration.
From your point of view, what are the key elements that make this image successful? Is there anything that you would change in the image if you were shooting it again?
Despite the issues I had with the camera and that section of the wedding day, I was careful to compose the frame with the couple underneath the mountain lines, keeping the horses and tree framing them. I feel that the movement brought on by the slow shutter gives the elements in the frame an ethereal, romantic and almost dreamy look. It feels nostalgic.
I’m also incredibly proud of this shot because being given a creative ‘Carte Blanche” is a pretty rare thing and this could have gone horribly wrong, but instead I bagged a silver award and it means enough to Dave & Rebecca that they have it hanging up pride of place in their home.
If I were shooting it again, knowing how the image was going to turn out I don’t think I’d do anything differently but I also won’t be bringing that camera / lens set-up to a wedding again anytime soon 🙂